Senator Hatch: BLM Relseases Overdue Roadmap for Oil Shale

WASHINGTON – Senator Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) today expressed relief that the government’s roadmap for oil shale development has finally been issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Earlier today, the BLM released the final rules governing the issuance of commercial leases for oil shale development on federal land. The final regulations had been held up by a controversial one-year moratorium, which received intense criticism during a time when the nation faced gasoline prices above $4 a gallon. Due to the controversy, Congress chose to lift the moratorium before recessing several weeks before the national election.

“Some folks have been talking about this final rule as though it would unleash a flood of oil shale development; that’s just not the case,” Hatch said, “It simply provides a roadmap for companies that may wish to pursue oil shale development on federal lands in the future. The law is clear that the BLM cannot grant commercial oil shale leases until the government consults at great length with the governors and local officials of the impacted states, I should know, I was the sponsor of the oil shale law, and it clearly puts the governors and local officials in the driver’s seat.”

Section 369 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 states:

"The Secretary shall consult with the Governors of the States….to determine the level of support and interest in the States in the development of tar sands and oil shale… If the Secretary finds sufficient support and interest exists in a state, the Secretary may conduct a lease sale in that state."

Earlier this year, the BLM also released a very large and comprehensive Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement regarding oil shale and tar sands development which covers the states of Utah, Wyoming and Colorado (http://ostseis.anl.gov/). Any company attempting to develop oil shale would have to follow that study up with further environmental studies related to their specific operations.

“There was a big boom and bust with oil shale in the late 1970s when President Jimmy Carter wanted to develop oil shale,” Hatch said. “Anyone who’s actually read the current law and these regulations knows that we are pursuing a much more methodical and careful approach today.”